Article

UN Security Council

S. R. Subramanian

in International Relations

ISBN: 9780199743292
Published online April 2016 | | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0170
UN Security Council

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The United Nations Security Council was envisioned as the most powerful body in the UN system, consistent with its primary responsibility to maintain world peace. Its importance stems from the mandate that, if it is the mission of the UN to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” it is the Security Council that is chiefly tasked with working toward achieving that goal. Moreover, it is the Security Council that translates into effect the principle of collective security, one of the foundational pillars upon which the UN was founded. In addition, the primacy of the Security Council in matters of the use of force and the veto power wielded by the permanent members has further strengthened the global stature of this institution. However, in practice, it is also the most heavily criticized institution, some even prompting to speculate that it could destroy the UN. In fact, numerous reasons can be cited for such deep frustrations regarding this towering institution. Decision- making in the Security Council, especially during the Cold War, was largely impacted by the differences between the opposing ideological blocs of East and West; thus, it was often paralyzed in taking action. Since the 1990s threats to world peace have assumed new dimensions. Serious concerns have grown of security threats posed by non-state actors, international terrorism, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Consequently, the Security Council has tended to assume far greater powers, ostensibly with less concern for the values upheld by the UN (such as human rights, nonintervention in domestic affairs, and the rule of law) that it is supposed to cherish, leading to a further wave of criticisms. Scholars have increasingly questioned the legality and legitimacy of several actions of the Council and its assumption of quasi-legislative and quasi-judicial powers with fewer, or no, limitations. At times, the Security Council is even accused of contributing to, or ignoring violations of, human rights. Also, in view of the changed realities of the world that touch upon political, economic, and strategic areas and given the rise of different expectations and perceptions between the Global North and the Global South, demands have been made for an expansion of the Security Council. However, in retrospect, it should be noted that, since the establishment of the UN, reform of the Security Council has never been attempted, except for certain minimal changes in the membership in 1965. Moreover, in recent years, the new, emerging norm of the “responsibility to protect” has been suggested as a solution to overcome the stalemate in decision- making in the Security Council; however, any changes have yet to prove forthcoming.

Article.  11963 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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